It’s a harsh reality. Just like wrinkles, chocolate, and tantrums, eventually encountering a Mean Mom is unavoidable. (Author’s Note: If your child has never had a tantrum or you believe your child will never have a tantrum, please click away from this page now. I don’t want to scare you with stories of broken chandeliers and straight jackets.) And after the Mean Mom encounter, you will probably wish yours had been an encounter of the “third kind” where an evil, green alien tried to eat you rather than an encounter with the woman whom you now have to see at preschool EVERY week. Because getting eaten by an alien would be more comfortable and less anxiety inducing.
My son was in preschool for two blissful years before I suddenly heard the Jaws theme music playing as I read a class Valentine’s party letter that started the Great Suburban Preschool Cupcake Wars of 2011. That’s right, folks, this is all about cupcakes. Those sweet little confections wrapped in festive papers are – gasp – an act of war. Ready, set, fire frost!
My five-year-old son has an allergy to dairy and synthetic food dyes. As a result, I signed up to make the Valentine’s cupcakes for the entire class. (The fact that I baked something without starting my kitchen on fire is another topic entirely. Remind me to tell you about that time three fire trucks showed up and I hadn’t showered, deodorized or put on a bra. It was one of THOSE days…)
Well, word spread that my cupcakes would be dairy-free. It turns out that this news translates to: “Brooke is forcing innocent children to eat sweets baked from old diaper boxes.” Cardboard cupcakes would, after all, be gross. Anyway, the Jaws “party letter” informed me that another mother would ALSO be bringing cupcakes. Say WHAT? I had just spent $13 on dye-free hot pink sugar crystals and some other mom was bringing her own cupcakes? Um, no. That 13 bucks is like four bottles of wine from Trader Joe’s! I needed clarification.
I put on my big girl, professional panties and revisited my time in an office when I used to actually talk to other grown-ups every day, and I dialed the phone. “Hi, Chantel* (aka Mean Mom),” I said in that same try-to-stay-sane voice you use to say things like, “Oh, I see you’re very good at drawing dinosaurs. Next time, let’s not draw them on the newly refinished hardwoods.”
Me to Chantel: “This is Brooke from school. I see from the class letter that you’ve decided to also bring cupcakes to the party. I’m guessing that’s because you’re worried how dairy-free cupcakes might taste. I wanted to assure you that they are delicious. I was hoping this could be the one class event at which my son wasn’t singled out by his diet.”
Long story short, this Mean Mom told me that, in fact, she believed children should have a choice of what cupcakes to eat; that she didn’t know, despite what I thought, if my cupcakes would taste like cardboard (“cardboard” is a direct quote); and – here’s the kicker – that if ANY OTHER MOM in the class were making the cupcakes she would not be bringing in her own. Well, slap me silly. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever been that insulted right to my face except when my son declared he didn’t like me anymore—and, well, he’s five.
We went around and around for awhile, and I finally just said I needed to get off the phone because we were getting about as far as Republicans and Democrats have gotten on, oh say, balancing the budget.
The day of the party arrived, and Mean Mom, true to her word, arrived with a platter of store bought, dye- and dairy-filled cupcakes. And she didn’t give her son the “choice” she felt he was entitled to; she just plopped one of those store bought cakes right on his plate. I resisted the urge to claw her eyes out (even though spending a few hours alone in jail did sound slightly appealing). Instead, we discussed the weather and the kids, and I hope to never see her again. But I will. And, ugh, I’ll be nice.
Here’s the thing: When it comes to his food allergies, my son has accepted what he cannot change. And I need the strength to do the same when it comes to encounters of the Mean Mom kind. Perhaps a glass of wine and a dairy-free, dye-free cupcake will help.
Have you encountered a Mean Mom at school, in a playgroup or at a Little League game? Any tips for handling this rare but inevitable meeting?
*Names have been changed to protect me from the Mean Mom.
Mother of two, Brooke Bernard is a freelance editor and writer who blogs most Wednesdays at www.mamasagainstdrama.com.
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